New tool uses Facebook to improve Israel's image
Israpedia automatically replaces users Facebook status line with interesting facts about Israel.
The realization that young people are increasingly living life through their Facebook accounts recently gave birth to a new and potentially powerful tool in the fight for Israel's image. Observing this phenomenon, a group of 23 students from Jerusalem's Hebrew University came up with a small application which uses the Facebook "status line" to inform hundreds of thousands of users at any given moment about positive facts about Israel.
"We realized that social networks impact people around world, not only in Israel," says Botswana-born Maya Epstein, the 25-year-old coordinator for Israpedia, the team responsible for the computer application. "By changing the status line on Facebook you can inform thousands of people about all sorts of things about Israel, which is usually seen in the media only through the prism of the Middle East conflict."
Israpedia, the Facebook application, automatically replaces run-of-the-mill musings or common tidbits with what the group's staff considers interesting though little known facts about Israel, like the fact that it is the second biggest book publisher per capita in the world, or that it has over 200 wineries producing red, white and bubbly. So far, around 3,000 users downloaded the application, according to the idea's designers.
Epstein, who immigrated to Israel 11 years ago, spearheaded the project as campus coordinator for international Israel-advocacy group StandWithUs. The L.A.-based organization sponsored the project for the 23 students who came up with the idea in the framework of the organization's Jerusalem Fellows program.
"Users can always override the Israpedia status line and write their own thing," says New York-born Eyal Lapidot, 28, who also belongs to the Israpedia team. "If the new user-added line stays unchanged for two days, the Israpedia application will change it to an Israel fact," explains Lapidot, born to a mixed Israeli-American couple. The application can be downloaded from www.israpedia.info
The next step, according to Epstein, will be to take the Israpedia lines and automatically turn them into messages in Twitter, a growing social messaging platform limited to 140 characters.
This step and others will be discussed on Sunday on campus in Jerusalem at a conference organized by the Jerusalem Fellowship about web-based advocacy tools, or "improving Israel's image with little time and no money," as Epstein puts it.